Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025710, Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:33:16 +0300

Queen Josephine & Murat in Ada
He [Van] struggled to keep back his tears, while AAA blew his fat red nose, when shown the peasant-bare footprint of Tolstoy preserved in the clay of a motor court in Utah where he had written the tale of Murat, the Navajo chieftain, a French general's bastard, shot by Cora Day in his swimming pool. (1.28)

Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Tolstoy etc.: Tolstoy's hero, Haji Murad (a Caucasian chieftain), is blended here with General Murat, Napoleon's brother-in-law, and with the French revolutionary leader Marat assassinated in his bath by Charlotte Corday.

In "Жозефина Богарнэ и её гадалка" (Josephine Beauharnais and her Fortune-Teller) Aldanov mentions the fact that Murat, the future king of Naples, asked for the permission to be called Marat:

Мюрат, будущий неаполитанский король, только наполовину мошенничал, когда просил о разреше­нии ему называться Маратом. Будущая императрица Жозе­фина только на три четверти врала, именуя себя "санкю­лоткой-монтаньяркой".

Kim Beauharnais (the kitchen boy and photographer at Ardis who spies on Van and Ada and later attempts to blackmail Ada) is a Creole:

He had brought her a present, a collection of photographs he had taken in the good old days. He had been hoping the good old days would resume their course, but since he understood that mossio votre cossin (he spoke a thick Creole thinking that its use in solemn circumstances would be more proper than his everyday Ladore English) was not expected to revisit the castle soon - and thus help bring the album up to date - the best procedure pour tous les cernes ('the shadowed ones,' the 'encircled' rather than 'concerned') might be for her to keep (or destroy and forget, so as not to hurt anybody) the illustrated document now in her pretty hands. (2.7)

Aldanov points out that Josephine Beauharnais (on Antiterra known as "Queen Josephine," 1.5) was a helpless Creole (born in Martinique) who had the traits of a Russian or Polish lady:

Но у этой беспомощной креолки были черты русской или польской барыни.

On Antiterra Count Tolstoy is "a Russian or Pole:"

To put it bluntly, the boy [Eric Veen, the author of the essay "Villa Venus: an Organized Dream"] had sought to solace his first sexual torments by imagining and detailing a project (derived from reading too many erotic works found in a furnished house his grandfather had bought near Vence from Count Tolstoy, a Russian or Pole): namely, a chain of palatial brothels that his inheritance would allow him to establish all over 'both hemispheres of our callipygian globe.' (2.3)

Aldanov is the author of Zagadka Tolstogo ("Tolstoy's Riddle," 1921).

On Terra, Theresa had been a Roving Reporter for an American magazine, thus giving Van the opportunity to describe the sibling planet's political aspect. This aspect gave him the least trouble, presenting as it did a mosaic of painstakingly collated notes from his own reports on the 'transcendental delirium' of his patients. Its acoustics were poor, proper names often came out garbled, a chaotic calendar messed up the order of events but, on the whole, the colored dots did form a geomantic picture of sorts. (2.2)

Van's "geomantic picture" brings to mind Mlle Lenormand's methods (chiromantic, cartomantic, lampomantic, etc.) of fortune telling:

Госпожа Ленорман в самый разгар эры разума объявила, что предсказывает любому человеку будущее по известным ей методам: хиромантическому, картомантическому, лампадомантическому, некромантичес­кому, рабдомантическому и орнитомантическому (То есть по линиям рук, по картам, по лампаде, по покойникам, с помощью лозы, по полёту птиц), — к ней повалил народ. (Josephine Beauharnais and her Fortune-Teller)

In Aldanov's Bred ("Delirium," 1955) the hero in a dream visits Moscow and meets Stalin at the American embassy. Countess Teresa Guiccioli (Lord Byron's mistress) is a character in Aldanov's Mogila voina ("A Soldier's Grave," 1938). (Btw., I notice that in one of my posts "Soldier" became "Sailor.")

Alexey Sklyarenko

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